Why those UK PPE contracts from 2020 are illegal

I have posited many times in this blog (and elsewhere) that it is very possible a significant number of contracts awarded without competition in the UK as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic are illegal since the provisions of Regulation 32(2)(c) are not fully met. The key issue is the requirement by the contracting authorities to act diligently as to avoid creating the emergency themselves (in addition to the asinine idea of the VIP route that is).

In this context the emergency is not COVID-19 in itself but instead the depletion of PPE stocks on the run up to it and inadequate attention given to the matter. It turns out that not only the signs were out there but also there were those who tried to warn the Government about the situation:

"Sarah Stoute, the chief executive of Full Support Healthcare (FSH), said that she had told government officials in December 2019 that there would soon be a shortage of equipment. “All of the hubs in the country were emptying. There was no stock and hospitals had started to call, to say they were in a panic. It took all of December and January to beg [the government] to release the Brexit stock as a matter of emergency, whilst we went to production full-scale in the background, and urged them to place orders on products that were running out,” she said.


She said her firm had millions of items ready to sell to the government in January but did not get an order until April 2020."

Evidently this is not the behaviour of a diligent public body. As such, those PPE contracts awarded directly without competition from March onward are naturally illegal since the urgency (lack of stocks) came to be  due to the inaction of the Government. Yes, the increased use of PPE due to COVID-19 depleted supplies but the emergency situation (ie, actual lack of PPE) could only have occurred due to the non-diligent behaviour of the Government.